On Friday, Moody’s Investors Service placed Russia’s investment-grade sovereign debt rating on review for possible downgrade, citing the ill effects the ongoing conflict in Ukraine could have on the Russian economy.
The news from Moody’s comes after Standard & Poor’s earlier this month lowered its outlook on Russian bonds to negative. While “Moody’s said it acknowledges Russia’s large foreign-currency reserves and limited external debt repayments and the current strength of the government’s balance sheet,” Reuters reported, the ratings agency did say it believes the Ukraine crisis could keep investors away from Russian markets for an extended period of time.
Russia often vies with Brazil for the top spot among BRIC nations in terms of heft in emerging markets bond ETFs, meaning S&P’s lower outlook combine with a possible downgrade from Moody’s could affect an array of dollar-denominated and local currency ETFs. [ETFs With Large Exposure to Russian Debt]
The ProShares Short Term USD Emerging Market Bond ETF (BATS: EMSH) allocates nearly 19% of its combined weight to Russian and Ukraine bonds, but the ETF has held up relatively in the past month, losing just 1.1%. EMSH could be a credible addition to investors’ watchlists as emerging markets bonds rebound due to the ETF’s 4.59% 30-day SEC yield and modified adjusted duration of just 2.2 years. Other country weights in excess of 9% include Indonesia, Venezuela and Brazil.
“In our view, the market is currently wrestling with uneasy stability and a prolonged chess match as the most likely options. Risk premiums are still high, but the risk of a full-scale military conflict has faded,” said WisdomTree Portfolio Manager Rick Harper in a note out last week. [An Update on Russian Bonds]
Lingering risk to Russian bonds, does not mean all emerging markets bond ETFs should be passed over. For example, the actively managed WisdomTree Emerging Markets Local Debt Fund (NYSEArca: ELD) gained 1.6% last week despite better than 17% combined exposure to Brazil and Russia.